Slavery: Four northern perspectives

To help dispel the stereotype that everyone in the North in the mid-1800s was against slavery, students will analyze a collection of primary sources that portray four distinct Northern attitudes toward slavery: Abolition, Free Soil, Colonization, and Pro-slavery. The goal is to further their understanding of multiple perspectives, reinforcing the fact that the study of history necessitates researching multiple perspectives in order to discover the truth.

Historical Background

This extended lesson could be taught at various places in the Unit 4 curriculum. One could choose to do it early on so that students have an underlying understanding of the complexities of slavery - that it wasn’t such a cut and dry, north vs. south issue. As one makes their way through the unit and becomes aware of the growing sectional tensions that ultimately lead to the Civil War, it will be helpful to refer back to this lesson as a point of clarification and ongoing analysis.

The problem with teaching it early on is that the sources cover a range of thirty years or so, and students will not be too familiar with the historical details surrounding each source. Provide them with some historical context to aid in their analysis. Nevertheless, the lesson will still serve its purpose in helping students understand the multiple attitudes towards slavery in the North and across the nation in the antebellum period.

It’s important to keep in mind that although American slavery existed long before the mid-1800s, it was at this point that it really came to the forefront of regional and national politics. The Abolitionist movement really took off in the 1830s, generating lots of printed propaganda across the North. The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 and “over the course of the nineteenth century, the ACS transported an estimated sixteen thousand migrants to Liberia. The migration peaked between 1848 and 1854.” (www.inmotionaame.org)

Of course, not all Americans favored either of these approaches to dealing with the issue of slavery. Abolitionism met with fierce resistance in some parts of the North. In Cincinnati, OH, anti-abolition rioters murdered a printer who was publishing abolitionist materials. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, dramatically changed Northern opinions on slavery; yet it was countered by multiple publications of “anti-Uncle Tom” literature, portraying a kinder, gentler view of life for plantation slaves.

Still others viewed slavery, not as a moral issue, but as an economic threat to the livelihood of whites. The Free Soil Party, espousing “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor,” opposed the expansion of slavery in the west. Emigrant Aid Societies in New England rallied to occupy places like Kansas in order to ensure statehood free of slavery, for the sake of white laborers.

By analyzing these four Northern perspectives on slavery students will gain a deeper appreciation for and understanding of our nation’s past.

Lesson Objective

Compare four distinct Northern attitudes toward slavery in the mid-1800s by analyzing a group of primary sources for content and perspective, comparing them to other perspectives, and creating a product that incorporates all four perspectives.

Materials

Procedure

  1. Day 1:
  2. Activating Prior Knowledge: Ask students to name the two sides that fought each other in the Civil War – North and South. Which side was for slavery and which was against it? Most students will answer: South – for; North – against. Explain that this lesson is designed to challenge that perception. Allow them to discover that all (except one) of these sources are from the North – don’t tell them. Remember: History as Mystery!
  3. Arrange students in pairs. Distribute to each pair one of the Primary Source Packs (PSP) and accompanying PSP Analysis Sheet. Have them analyze their three primary sources and answer the analysis questions. Explain that they will first analyze for content and sourcing, then determine the perspective of each source. Encourage students to look for the common elements among their three sources. What opinion about slavery is evident in these documents? From what region of the country do all these sources come? Is that surprising?
  4. Day 2:
  5. Jigsaw: Have students form groups of four (one rep from each PSP). Provide students with copies of all twelve primary sources so they can reference them.
  6. Students will share each of their PSP’s with the group and discuss the perspective toward slavery that each PSP represents. Students will record each of the other three perspectives on a Perspective Capture Sheet. Do any of the perspectives surprise them? Which ones? Facilitate by providing background knowledge and clarification to the groups as needed.
  7. Day 3:
  8. Students will return to their jigsaw groups from Day 2 and complete a Comparison Analysis for about 15 min. Then, facilitate a whole class discussion based on their findings. Possible questions to pose: Are there any similarities among these perspectives on slavery? Which ones are the most similar? Which are extreme opposites? Do any of the perspectives surprise them? Which two perspectives are most well-known? Why do you think the others are less well-known? Who do you think would gravitate toward each perspective?
  9. Students will create a visual presentation that portrays all four Northern perspectives on slavery. Options include making a poster, video, political cartoon, song, newspaper, or other teacher-approved project. They will have a week to complete this assessment, but they can start formulating a rough draft in class.

Homework

Day 1: PSP Analysis Sheet (15 pts – HW)

Day 2: Perspective Capture Sheet (15 pts – HW)

Day 3: Multiple Perspective Project (30 pts – Formative)

Assessment

Multiple Perspective Project: create a poster, video, political cartoon, song, newspaper, or other teacher-approved project that appropriately portrays the four northern perspectives on slavery that we studied.

Project Rubric

Differentiation

The Pro-Slavery sources (PSP 4) are very clearly stated and the easiest to analyze. These can be given to students with disabilities and/or ESOL students. You can also pair them with a student with stronger analysis skills to assist them.

References

Sources from Primary Source Pack # 1

Anonymous. “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” Image. New York: Anti-Slavery Office, 1837. From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. http://loc.gov/pictures/item/2008661312/ (accessed March 20, 2012).

Brown, William W. “Get Off the Track.” Song. The Anti-Slavery Harp: A Collection of Songs for Anti-slavery Meetings. Boston, 1848. From Library of Congress, American Memory, African American Odyssey Online Exhibit. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=ody_musmisc&fileName=ody/ody0316/ody0316page.db&recNum=24&itemLink=/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart3.html@0316&linkText=9 (accessed March 20, 2012)

Garrison, William L. “Declaration of the National Anti-Slavery Convention.” Broadside. Philadelphia, December 4, 1833. From the Library of Congress, American Memory, African American Odyssey Online Exhibit. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/odyssey/archive/03/0303001r.jpg (accessed March 20, 2012)

Primary Source Pack # 2

Currier, Nathaniel. “Grand Democratic Free Soil Banner.” Image. New York, 1848. From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001700249/ (accessed March 20, 2012)

Garrison, James. “James Garrison to Samuel L. Adair.” Letter. Yellow Springs, OH, Feb. 27, 1857. From Kansas Memory Online Exhibit of Kansas Historical Society. http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/90265/text (accessed March 20, 2012)

Shurtleff, A. Havington. “Emigration to Kansas Territory.” Letter. New York, 1857. From Kansas Memory Online Exhibit of Kansas Historical Society. http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/90373 (accessed March 20, 2012)

Sources from Primary Source Pack #3

Hall, James. “An Address to the Free People of Color of the State of Maryland.” Document. Baltimore: John D. Toy Publisher, 1859. From IN MOTION: The African-American Migration Experience Online Exhibit, presented by The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. http://www.inmotionaame.org/texts/viewer.cfm?id=4_009T&page=1 (accessed March 20, 2012)

Gurley, R.R. “Report of the Secretary of State Communicating The Report of the Rev. R. R. Gurley, who was recently sent out by the government to obtain information in respect to Liberia.” Document. Washington, DC: Dept of State, Sept. 14, 1850. From IN MOTION: The African-American Migration Experience Online Exhibit, presented by The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. http://www.inmotionaame.org/texts/viewer.cfm?id=4_008BT&page=1 (accessed March 20, 2012)

Garrison, William Lloyd. “Meeting of Free People of Color, Richmond, VA.” Document. Boston: Thoughts on African Colonization: or an impartial exhibition of the Doctrines, Principles & Purposes of the American Colonization Society. Together with the Resolutions, Addresses & Remonstrances of the Free People of Color, 1832. From Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery Online Exhibit, presented by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3h250t.html (accessed March 20, 2012)

Sources from Primary Source Pack #4

Anonymous. “Abolitionists Beware.” Notice. Cincinnati: July, 1836. From Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture Online Exhibit, presented by Stephen Railton & the University of Virginia. http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/abolitn/mobhp.html (accessed March 20, 2012)

Anonymous. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Extract from the N. Y. Courier and Enquirer.” Unsigned Reprint, New York Observer, Oct. 21, 1852. From Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture Online Exhibit, presented by Stephen Railton & the University of Virginia. http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/proslav/prar11at.html (accessed March 20, 2012)

Anonymous. “Little Eva, The Flower of the South. Aunt Mary’s Picture Book.” New York, NY: Phil J. Cozans, 1853. From Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture Online Exhibit, presented by Stephen Railton & the University of Virginia. http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/childrn/cbcbambt.html (accessed March 20, 2012)

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